Top Web Sale Lots Week of 7/27/2015

SUNDAY, AUGUST 02, 2015

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Top individual sale lots of the past week...

  1. $5,750 - Bred Heifer sired by Milk Man
    Brower-Craft Female Sale 7-29-15 #1
  2. $5,500 - Cow sired by BC Raven
    Brower-Craft Female Sale 7-29-15 #2
  3. $4,250 - Bred Heifer sired by Monopoly
    Brower-Craft Female Sale 7-29-15 #7
  4. $4,250 - Bred Heifer sired by Deadliest Catch
    Brower-Craft Female Sale 7-29-15 #6
  5. $4,000 - Bred Heifer sired by Paul Revere
    Brower-Craft Female Sale 7-29-15 #4
  6. $3,750 - Bred Heifer sired by Gert
    Brower-Craft Female Sale 7-29-15 #5
  7. $3,250 - Bred Cow sired by Red Hot
    Brower-Craft Female Sale 7-29-15 #8
  8. $590 - Embryo sired by Irish Whiskey
    Brower-Craft Female Sale 7-29-15 #3
  9. $530 - Embryo sired by Choppin Wood
    Brower-Craft Female Sale 7-29-15 #9
  10. $360 - Embryo sired by Walks Alone
    Brower-Craft Female Sale 7-29-15 #13

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What do I do now?

WEDNESDAY, JULY 29, 2015

This is part eight of a ten part series that started on July 13th.

Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve had a free weekend.

We have actually dinner parties now.  “Dinner party” being inviting our church friends over to give me an excuse to cook crawfish.

I still volunteer at the same prospect shows I volunteered at before, there’s just no longer the pretense that I’m doing it as some sort of marketing ploy to sell calves.

I'm taking a Udacity class on Android app development.

Chess

About a week after I moved on from the cattle herd, I started ‘coaching’ the ‘chess team’ at our local elementary school.  Truth be told, I do it for the same selfish reasons I volunteer at prospect shows, so my kids will see me volunteering.  That whole subject will be another day.

I hear your judgement, it’s chess.

You’re right about just about all of those stereotypes.

My only defense is that the dad we 'stall' with at tournaments most often is a fighter pilot.

But by gosh, Luke aint half bad at it.  He’s trophied in his last five full tournaments he’s been in.  He’s bit of an outlier on the intelligence side of things and chess lets him do something with that.

I actually got him a real chess coach because I’m not very good a chess at all.  I justified the cost because a year’s worth of lessons only costs about half what a decently competitive mini-Hereford would cost and we don’t have to eat those miniature rib eyes.

Unlike feeding a show steer, he’s passionate about it, so we’re running with it until get gets burned out.

Golf

About 8-9 years ago I got on a little golf kick.  It didn’t last long because eventually I realized that I was paying some course to let me get four hours of sunlight when I could get that same outdoor exposure just going down to the ranch and doing a little bit of work.  The fact that I was absolutely terrible at golf had a big role in that as well.

Two months ago I got tired of not having a reason to get outside and started playing again.

A lot.

Too much actually.

I remember thinking at one time that I couldn’t imagine getting a golf handicap because I’d have to play a minimum of five rounds and that’d take several months to get groups together for.

NOT counting the golf scramble at the VATAT convention this week I’ve played seven rounds in the past 14-days.

I still suck at it.

“Bootcamp”

Don’t let the farmer beer bellies fool you, you do get a bit of a workout when you’re involved with a  ranch.  You don't get that programming websites.

Have you seen me lately?  Do you wonder why I look marginally sexier than I did earlier in the year?

It’s because the mornings I’m able to drag my fat butt out of bed at 5:30 AM I go do a bootcamp workout for girls.

I thought I was doing cross fit for the first three sessions because I’m a freaking idiot, I’m actually doing some sort of boot camp thing.  It doesn’t really matter, I can’t make it through the beginner level of either one.

I’m not the only dude in the class but I’m certainly the fatest and most out of shape. 

If you don't like me, wake up at 6 AM some day and think to yourself that somewhere there's a college girl taking little chunks out of whatever self pride I ever had with repeated “you’re doing great Jeff, keep it up” bull shit as I’m crawling my way up from another burpee.

I do the 6 AM workout session for one reason and one reason alone, I’m too embarrassed to do it during the day.

My Kid Just Doesn't Want to Show a Steer

TUESDAY, JULY 28, 2015

This is part 7 of a ten part series, go back to July 13th to read from the start.

This seems awfully negative by now, I’m sure, it’s really not meant to be.

When I was a kid it took me several years of working on my parents for the opportunity to show a steer.  Unlike most kids nowadays, I hadn’t already bred half a dozen show heifers for the bred and owned division by the time my first birthday came around.  I had to show rabbits to start, then we moved to pigs which we had no business showing.  I finally got to show heifers for two years because they made more financial sense than showing a steer because they worked as replacement females too.

I was throwing fits trying to show a steer the whole time.

My kids?

Not so much.

I know making a life changing decision based on the whims of a seven year old doesn’t make a ton of sense…but my seven year old just doesn’t have any desire to feed a show steer.  Seven is pretty important because that’s second grade, which is when you get started in that stuff.

So?

I’m not going to make him do it if he doesn’t want to.

Huh?  I don’t get it.

I’m not going to make my kid show steers if he doesn’t want to.

I still don’t get it.

I’m not going to get my kids to show steers because they have not shown any interest in it.

So, you’re still going to have steers you pay somebody else to feed and then have your kids show them at the majors, right?

No.

So you really aren’t going to make your kids show steers?  Okay.  How many show heifers will they feed?

None.

Is that even legal?

Yes.

Are you sure?  I don’t think that’s legal.

It is, I promise.

You might want to check on that, I don’t want to argue with you but I’m fairly certain that kids are required to show calves regardless of whether they want to or not.

Seriously, my kid that would show next year just doesn’t want to feed a steer and I have absolutely no desire to force him or find a way to do it just because I want to live vicariously through him.

He LOVES competition and he’ll practice livestock judging or chess for hours on end.  He just doesn’t want to feed and wash a show steer.

There are plenty of kids that weren't all that interested in showing calves when they were younger that ended up becoming absolutely great sticks.  I'm just going to wait and if they want to show calves, that's what ag barns are for.

Frankly, if he were half as in to showing calves as other kids his age at shows, I’d probably have found a way to accept everything else that led to the decision to change directions and done it.

But he’s not, so we do other stuff….

No Room for Error Nowadays

MONDAY, JULY 27, 2015

This is part 6 of a ten part series that started on July 13th.  Why the week long gap?  Because I set the wrong date for this post and didn’t notice until late Tuesday.

Let’s categorize people raising show steers on a 6 point scale, from 1 to Horn.  Whoever you are, if you try to raise or sell show steers, you fall into one of these categories…

1 – Sell calves from your commercial herd and have no idea how to help feed.  Your buyers are happy if they’re not last in class.

2 – Started raising show steers a few years ago and still working your way up to regularly producing a few competitive calves.

3 – Brand a few at majors each year, have a shot to steal a banner at a major here and there.

4 – Regularly contend for breeds at majors and for overall at county shows.  Almost certainly have your own online sale.  You’ve been called a jock more than a few times.

5 – Multiple major show banners are not only a possibility, it’s assumed you’re going to get a piece of a few.  Your sale is something people plan their springs around.

Horn – Your name is Brandon Horn.

The effort to go from 1 to 2 is essentially nothing more than buying the right herd bull or starting to AI with semen focused on what you are breeding for.

Going from 2 to 3 requires substantial money to be invested into your herd and the patience to wait a few years for it to pay off.

Going from 3 to 4 requires a change to your lifestyle from somebody who likes to raise/sell steers on the side to somebody grinding it out at every prospect show around fitting calves.

Going from 4 to 5 requires not just time, effort, money, and dedication; you have to have a natural talent.

YOU can’t go from 5 to Horn.

We were squarely in that #3 category.  We’d brand a handful of steers each year and have 1-2 that contend for a class.  We weren’t big enough to have a sale but we did the last two years I was involved, in large part just because it was easier than picking who got which calves.

We didn’t give feeding advice and I’m terrible with a set of clippers.  We had people we depended on that were great for that but us ourselves?  No.

I was just fine with where we were but that next step wasn’t a realistic possibility for us.

The problem is the sheer amount of people that fall into that #3 category nowadays makes it more and more difficult to make it work.  The margin of error has become too small to run anything but the tightest of ships.

You can't make mistakes and you can’t do that when you live 45-minutes from the ranch.

Top Web Sale Lots Week of 7/20/2015

SUNDAY, JULY 26, 2015

Sale Reports

Top individual sale lots of the past week...

  1. $22,000 - Pair sired by ZKCC Chopper
    Burke Show Cattle Dispersal 7-25-15 #2264
  2. $15,500 - Pair sired by Sooner
    Burke Show Cattle Dispersal 7-25-15 #1x
  3. $11,500 - Pair sired by Aftershock
    Burke Show Cattle Dispersal 7-25-15 #186
  4. $10,000 - Pair sired by Mama's Boy
    Burke Show Cattle Dispersal 7-25-15 #231
  5. $9,800 - Pair sired by Parker
    Burke Show Cattle Dispersal 7-25-15 #982w
  6. $9,700 - Bred Heifer sired by Show Stopper
    Burke Show Cattle Dispersal 7-25-15 #464
  7. $9,000 - Pair sired by Irish Whiskey
    Burke Show Cattle Dispersal 7-25-15 #824
  8. $8,800 - Cow sired by Friction
    Burke Show Cattle Dispersal 7-25-15 #0Sad
  9. $7,500 - Pair sired by Aviator
    Burke Show Cattle Dispersal 7-25-15 #0Sab
  10. $7,000 - Pair sired by Patton
    Burke Show Cattle Dispersal 7-25-15 #898

Top Web Sale Lots Week of 7/13/2015

SUNDAY, JULY 19, 2015

Sale Reports

Top individual sale lots of the past week...

  1. $6,250 - Pair sired by BC Marathon
    Shirley Show Cattle Ripe for the Pickin Genetic Refresh Online Sale 7-14-15 #1
  2. $6,250 - Pair sired by BC Marathon
    Shirley Show Cattle Ripe for the Pickin Genetic Refresh Online Sale 7-14-15 #1
  3. $6,000 - Bull sired by CCF Vision
    Shirley Show Cattle Ripe for the Pickin Genetic Refresh Online Sale 7-14-15 #2
  4. $6,000 - Bull sired by CCF Vision
    Shirley Show Cattle Ripe for the Pickin Genetic Refresh Online Sale 7-14-15 #2
  5. $3,750 - Bull sired by Unstoppable
    Shirley Show Cattle Ripe for the Pickin Genetic Refresh Online Sale 7-14-15 #3
  6. $3,750 - Bull sired by Unstoppable
    Shirley Show Cattle Ripe for the Pickin Genetic Refresh Online Sale 7-14-15 #3
  7. $2,750 - Bull sired by Combustible
    Shirley Show Cattle Ripe for the Pickin Genetic Refresh Online Sale 7-14-15 #4
  8. $2,750 - Bull sired by Combustible
    Shirley Show Cattle Ripe for the Pickin Genetic Refresh Online Sale 7-14-15 #4
  9. $2,550 - Embryo sired by Solid Gold
    Brian Martin Show Cattle Online Embryo Sale 7-14-15 #1
  10. $2,250 - Embryo sired by Man Among Boys
    Brian Martin Show Cattle Online Embryo Sale 7-14-15 #4

Everyone Raises Show Steers Now

FRIDAY, JULY 17, 2015

This is part five of ten.  Please go back to July 13th to read from the beginning.

There are a few things I do that if I stopped doing them some people would have slightly more boring or inconvenient lives.  That's because I'm doing something other people aren't.

The world won’t be one bit worse off because I’m not raising show steers.

Historically speaking, cow numbers are still down.

There’s a need for people to raise replacement heifers.

There’s a need for people to raise Angus, Hereford, Red Angus, Charolais, Brahman, and Brangus bulls.

There’s NOT a need for more people to raise intentionally slow growing calves with a bunch of hair.

At some point, while they’re looking through another set of overpriced set of steers, every parent with a few acres wants to start raising a few steers of their own.

Every kid that made a name for themselves showing calves, and quite a few of us who didn’t, wants to get into raising and selling show steers themselves.

Every parent who got hooked on show steers with their kids wants to find a way to stay involved after their kid graduates.

And that’s for good reason; it’s a great project to be involved in.

It even makes a bit of sense to some just because ranches continue to get smaller and smaller.  If you only have 20-30 acres and want to raise cattle, you’re going to be limited to half a dozen cows or so.  Finding a way to make a premium on your calves above feeder calf prices only makes sense if you are looking at ways to monetize the operation.

But let’s be clear that there’s more than enough people raising show steers nowadays.

They aren’t branding more steers at the majors and speaking purely anecdotally, I don’t see a bunch of kids rushing into the market steer projects beyond the necessary replacement rate for kids graduating.

That means the competition to get a calf in the hands of the good stick and good feeders that get your calves branded is more competitive than it’s ever been.

What it takes to keep up with that competition, and why I don’t feel like doing it, is Monday…

  

You can start over on your own

THURSDAY, JULY 16, 2015

This is part four of a ten part series.  Please go back to July 13th for the start.

A side note...yesterday’s post went over about as well as you would expect here.  Thanks for the kind texts and e-mails but I’m not pretending it was anything but selfish of me to write.  I had no right to expect anybody to do what I wanted them to do.  The real problem was me and my inability to let things slide.  A better man would have figured it out long ago, I just walked away.

The most common thing I’ve heard from friends after telling them what I did is that I can start over independently.

No, I can’t.

I don’t have it in me to do again.

I liked the cows we put together and they spit out a few good ones each year.  We weren't any kind of big dogs but our calves had enough going for them to make the majors enjoyable every spring. 

Make no mistake, it takes patience to just get to that point.  Anybody who thinks they’re going to have an operation that is sustaining itself through their own genetics in less than ten years doesn’t know much about the life cycle of cattle.

I don't have the patience to do it again.

I’m also a bit more in tune with the value of a dollar than back when I started blowing money on cows.

The clubby/quality influence for that herd was purchased when the sale averages were closer to $3,000 than $6,000.  Folks, I don’t care what you think, $6k for a bred heifer is a lot of money.  You’ve got to make a premium on those calves to make the numbers even think about working.  You can’t make the mistakes in purchases that everyone, regardless of how smart they think they are, is destined to make.  When you’ve “got to” make the calves bring a premium you do things to make them do it that are different than how I like to do them. 

I won't lie, I tried getting into the partial ownership game during San Antonio, making a deal on a cow I had never seen before.  It was a good deal for all involved, it just fell apart (completely amicably) due to problems caused by the drought.  I'm not a wheeler and dealer and pretending I am would only get me in trouble.

Regardless, where would I put them?

If you want to raise cattle you are either born into land, you marry into land, or you blow a fortune you made doing something other than cattle on land.  We had several hundred acres of family land as a base for our operation and we were getting tight on space.  Starting over with purchased or (non-existent) leased land is a pipe dream more suited to lottery winners and naive kids fresh out of college.

Most importantly, who in their right mind thinks what the world needs is ANOTHER person trying to raise show steers…

"Family" and "Brothers" Ranch

WEDNESDAY, JULY 15, 2015

This is part three of ten, please go back to the July 13th post to read from the beginning.

There’s an old joke that any ranch with the word “brothers” in the name is only biding its time until a dispersal sale.

It's not really a joke as much as it's a prophecy.

There was a time when I really liked working with my brother.  We were the type didn't talk much in the pens, it was more of a grunt and a nod type communication that anybody who works cattle together a while understands.

Eventually, as is natural, things changed.  I know when things changed, it's so common that it’s almost a cliché as far as partnerships go.  I know where I was when I realized it wasn’t going to work long term, even if I continued to live in denial.  It was another 18 months before I finally walked out but after you lose a certain type of trust with somebody all of those little differences that used to be afterthoughts become tiny little cuts that build up over time.

Back in December, there was a weekend when I couldn’t sleep because I was so mad about stuff that had happened over the previous week.  Nothing unethical or mean spirited just oversights like not reading the donor shot instructions all the way through, losing a calf because somebody slept in, a text message that shouldn’t have been shared, etc.  

I got way too pissed about it.

I’m not justifying that anger; I have no right to be mad about it.

It was more my immaturity showing through than any justification for a temper tantrum.

They had just as much of a right to do things their way as I did to do things my way.

If I wanted things to get done with attention to details or wanted to make sure a calving cow was checked before noon, I should have been the one doing it.  I don't live at the ranch though, primarily for the reasons mentioned yesterday, and I wasn't the one doing it.

Beyond that there were just too many things we had different ideas on; the type of cattle we were raising, what does and does not get stored in the barn, how to price cattle, the difference between a good and a bad picture, how those pictures are described, marketing, etc.

I spent quite a bit of time building customer relationships over the years, mainly just because I really liked our customers as people, and could be more than a bit protective of how that aspect of things was handled.  You read this site, you can guess how rationally and calmly I take being told what we need to do to sell cattle by somebody who doesn't do the selling.

I couldn’t lead my way out of the differences either.  It's a character flaw on my part, I'm nowhere near as good a leader as FFA told me I should become 20 years ago.  Hell, I wasn’t able to get everyone on the same page regarding something as simple and seemingly common sense as which direction the gate is supposed to be opened when you are moving cattle.

I finally accepted reality when I found out somebody we’ve sold calves to for quite some time didn’t want to come to the place again because of some careless words.  It was finally clear to me that what I wanted was not what I was going to be taking part in.

I wasn't angry this time, I was sad in the way you get when you realize a beloved dog that has lived a full life needs to be put down.

Splitting things up was not a realistic option, cattle operations have a minimal size where they still make sense and we were pushing that as it was.

With that in mind, regardless of how the herd was built, my bother lives there, I don’t, it was time for me to move on.

If I was going to run cattle, it wasn't going to be there...

What happens when home isn’t home anymore?

TUESDAY, JULY 14, 2015

This is part 2 of 10.  Please go back to July 13th to read from the beginning.

I'm not going to go into the core reason I'm leaving our cattle herd.  It's not entirely responsible for the decision any way.  There are about a dozen medium sized reasons.

One of the biggest ones is that the ranch I grew up on is no longer a relatively peaceful little place, it's sitting squarely inside the part of the oil patch where you get the development but not the mineral rights.

Make no mistake; the oil boom down here has been great for a LOT of people.  There’s no shortage of ranchers that spent their entire lives working just to keep food on the table now have more money than they could ever hope to spend in their lifetimes.

The old adage that cattle are truly the most profitable when they are allowed to find shade under numerous oil wells has never been more true than it’s been the past few years.

But damn it, the next oil guy that gives two shits about the quality of life of the people in boom areas will be the first.

Unless you're one of those guys that pretends to think mesquite trees are beautiful (they're not) South Texas was never the prettiest area to begin with.  At least it was relatively quiet cattle country.

I have a picture on a computer in our garage (I’d post it here if I could get that thing running in less than an hour) that I took looking across the road from my parent’s front porch about 8 years ago.  It’s a picture of two Hereford show heifers, that I was AI’ing for a steer customer, walking through a pasture of knee deep rye grass that stretched to the horizon.  In the upper left of the picture you could see my grandparents’ house and the barn my dad and grandfather worked together in for about half a century.

If you took that picture now it would be quite different…

There’s not one but two pressure testing facilities with associated equipment yards.  When they’re busy they run through the night and you can hear the pressure testing from over a quarter mile away.  It’s a solid 200 yards from our working pens and I could heat check cows at night from their lights.

There’s now a half full RV park.

There are two trailer homes next to a ten acre equipment storage yard.

My grandmother’s house burned down about five years ago.

The old barns were demolished a few years ago for my brothers’ barndominium.  (not faulting them, the old barns were pretty darn old)

There’s a laundry facility for the RV park.

All of the trees along the farm road were cut down to make room for driveways to the pressure testing yards.

Over the horizon you can see the top of another chemical yard and the 20 foot high stacks.

An additional 30-foot tall building can be seen as well, I'm not sure what that one is even for as it's been finished in the past few months.

There’s an empty ten acre caliche pad site where I assume they meant to put in another equipment yard before the boom took a turn.

None of that was there eight years ago.  What was once a peaceful little ranch for 80+ years is now in the middle of an industrial yard. 

My family isn’t innocent.  We agreed to put a cell phone tower in our front pasture about 7-8 years ago.  It was a choice of having it our pasture and getting paid for it or looking at it across the fence in a neighbor’s place for nothing.

That doesn’t even begin to get into the drive to and from the ranch.  There are oil field support facilities at least every mile in one direction.  There was a truck partially blocking my parents driveway after it overturned while taking a turn too fast.

The highway base can’t keep up with the constant oil field traffic and has deteriorated in just the two years since they redid it.

Long story short, the farm I always wanted to go back to just doesn’t exist anymore and asking my family to live in the middle of an industrial yard just so I could raise show calves was something I wasn't willing to do.

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